Only together we can take a stand.
Natallia Radzina, Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org, visited the United States of America. In Washington D.C. and New York, she met with representatives of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Democratic Institute, the U.S. PEN Center, Google, democracy foundations and journalistic associations.
The main topic under discussion was the situation with freedom of speech in Belarus, Natallia Radzina says:
- First of all, I'd like to inform the U.S. authorities and civil society about the situation with independent journalism in Belarus. Unfortunately, the situation in Belarus has fallen out of the focus of the Western community and it knows little about attempts of the Lukashenka regime to destroy the rest of the freedom of speech in the country. In addition to the blocking of the leading independent website Charter97.org, persecution of editorial offices of independent media in the country continues, fictitious criminal cases are opened, searches are carried out, illegal recruitment of journalists by special services takes place, video bloggers Stsiapan Sviatlou, Aliaksandr Kabanau, Siarhei Piatrukhin, Andrei Pavuk are prosecuted. People are arrested for 15 days for posts on social networks. The repressive Law on Mass Media is tightened, which makes independent mass media completely dependent on the authorities.
I also urged to increase support for the Belarusian independent media working both in Belarus and abroad. Over the last few years, this support has been decreasing, and many media can barely survive and are on the verge of closing. Today operational activities of editorial offices require support, while many foundations provide only educational or project support.
The situation with Charter97.org is an example that fully reflects the situation with all Belarusian independent media. Today, we are deprived of support from the Polish government, which after repressions on the website, invited the editorial office to work in Warsaw in 2011. The website survives only thanks to the support of readers and several foundations, which gave a helping hand. However, the funding is so limited that it gives us several months for work. In such a situation, no long-term perspective and development of the media are possible.
However, today Belarus is subject to a massive attack by the Russian media with enormous budget support from the neighbouring state. The country is one step away from annexation. The role of independent media in defending the sovereignty of Belarus is a key one. Today we should cover a wider audience, work with people, explain the threat coming from the East, and it is extremely challenging to do without the support of the Western community.
I would like to thank our readers for their support during these hardships. The situation is still critical and the website is still under threat. We do need your help. Only together we can take a stand.
During her visit to Washington D.C., Natallia Radzina also met with representatives of the Belarusian diaspora.
- I am glad to know that there are active Belarusians abroad. They are not idle, do not shape their own lives only, but are actively involved. They carry out solidarity actions, keep American politicians informed, feel concern about events in their homeland and are ready to help," the editor-in-chief of Charter97.org says.